Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare borrows heavily from the popular mobile tower defense game, allowing players to choose a side, Plants or Zombies, and character class in order to wreak havoc against the opposing team in online competitive play. Each character class has their own special updgrades that can be unlocked much faster than any other modern multiplayer shooter. Of the two sides the zombie class is by far the more interesting of the two. Though often depicted in a heroic light, the Plant characters are not as interesting and fun to play as the Zombies. For example, the Plant assault class is armed with a literal pea shooter that is slow to fire while the Chomper is armed with a single melee attack.
There are two game modes in Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare, Garden Ops and Multiplayer. For a series that made its name as a tower defense game, not having a single player mode available is questionable. Out of the two modes, Garden Ops steals the show. It is a four player horde mode where you must fight and survive through eleven rounds before racing to an exit point. You'll begin the game by selecting a garden to defend from wave after wave of enemies until you're allowed to escape. PopCap did an incredible job of keeping the waves varied and some of the boss battles are extremely difficult. If you don't get a team to work together, Garden Ops can be quite the challenge. Fun as it is, the biggest gripe I have with Garden Ops is that you only can play as the Plants.
Multiplayer is broken into two games. The first is Team Vanquish which operates similarly to team deathmatch and the first to fifty kills wins the match. Not much else to say. The second game is Gardens and Graveyards featuring capture/defend checkpoint gameplay. This mode is far more interesting and requires some real strategy. During my time testing the game pre-release, this was the mode that always had people playing. Team Vanquish matches, on the other hand, was almost impossible to find - and that's still the case post release. The reason is due to the quality of the maps, as they are expertly created and offer plenty of strategic areas suitable for placing support units. Once a checkpoint is compromised the match continues to evolve until all points are overtaken. The few dozen matches of Gardens and Graveyards I played were a blast.
What surprised me the most was how balanced Garden Warfare turned out to be. It is obvious that PopCap spent a great deal of time and effort making sure that no class overpowered the other. All of the matches I played in Mutiplayer and Garden Ops were balanced and competitive.
Garden Warfare on the Xbox One is visually impressive and PopCap did a great job translating the color palette and aesthetics of the mobile game to this third person shooter. The game exudes charm and for that its hard not to have a good time. At the end of the day, no matter how balanced or pretty the game is, I was left struggling to understand who this game was intended for. Is it a good third person multiplayer shooter? Absolutely. Is it refreshing that there are no microtransactions whatsoever in the game? Yes. Still, it is hard to say that Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is anything more than a fun weekend experience. It simply doesn't have the legs to compete long term in a very crowded genre. Its a truly charming game but one that feels like a series of odd choices that leaves me scratching. I enjoyed the game but not enough to say that I need to play any more of it.
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